If you’re like me, joy is something that you deeply desire to experience on a consistent basis, but it seems impossible to obtain.
Joy is defined as ‘a feeling of great happiness. ‘
So if joy is a feeling of great happiness, it must take happy things in our lives to experience joy, right?
This past week I was reading something that specifically dealt with joy and it got me thinking, “Do I really live a life of joy, and if not, why not?”
Joy comes in different shapes and sizes. To be sure, when Lainey and Haston were born, I experienced a great deal of joy. If you have ever had a child of your own come into this world and held your baby for the first time, a feeling of euphoria comes over you. The feeling I got when I saw my beautiful wife walk down the aisle was overwhelming joy. However, the first sleepless night with my babies, the bliss turned to frustration and we just wanted to cry. The most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen in my life was Leah walking down the aisle on our wedding day, but a few weeks after our wedding, that went away when the reality of paying bills and figuring out this marriage thing became a reality. It might seem then that joy cannot last and is not possible to be something that is consistent – yet the fruit of the spirit includes JOY. For every person that has experienced the grace of the Lord Jesus, joy should be our nature. Jesus said in Luke 6:22-23 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy, successful lawyer who had a wife, four daughters, and a son. He had a nice home, influence and health, and was the envy of most everyone. He was close personal friends with D.L. Moody and other well-known pastors and was an extremely generous follower of Christ. This man found favor and certainly should have been joy-filled, right?!?
In the very best days of his law practice when his life was at the very top, his son tragically and suddenly passed away. Right after that on October 8, 1871 the great Chicago fire destroyed their home and every real estate investment he owned. In 1873 Spafford, his wife, and girls were going on vacation to Europe and to join D.L. Moody in England for an event. He had an unexpected business situation come up, so he sent his wife and girls and stayed back to take care of the business with plans to leave on his own shortly after. Spafford received a telegram a few days later that stated the ship had collided with another ship, all four daughters had died, and only the wife had survived.
Can you imagine losing your son and home, then two years later all four daughters? What a terrible, heart-breaking tragedy he faced. As he got on a boat to meet his grieving wife in Europe, the captain of the boat told Spafford, “This is the place the collision happened.” That was the location of the watery grave of his four girls, and Spafford penned these words:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
Think of this! He’s sitting over the site of yet one more tragedy in his life. It was time to throw his hands up and say ‘enough is enough!’ – but he didn’t. He wrote one of the most famous hymns of all time, ‘It Is Well With My Soul’. When sorrows like sea billows roll comes to a new light when considering the crashing waves were moving his room as he was writing about his deceased baby girls.
Honestly, his story got me thinking, “Is it well with my soul?” I mean, I have found joy in a win for a team or after a great day at church, but in all circumstances is Jesus really enough? Do I ‘leap for joy’ in difficult circumstances as Jesus said I should do? Do I look to Jesus for all comfort?
I’ve realized in all circumstances, good or bad, the answer isn’t knowledge or fame; it isn’t wealth or acclaim; it’s grace. Living in the foundational realization that because of the finished work of Jesus I am seen by God as Jesus. No matter my level of success or failure, no matter how far I fall, God sees me as He sees JESUS! Are you serious?!? When joy comes from anywhere, anyone, or by any means other than Christ alone, I set myself up for a miserable life that never adds up. I do my best and yet joy just seems failing day after day. But when I begin to know Jesus (not about him but to know the person of Jesus Christ; to walk with Him, to talk with Him, to cry with Him, to laugh with Him), joy overwhelms me and despair turns to joy. In all circumstances I have a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
Here’s the part of joy I find the most difficult to comprehend. Hebrews 9:22b says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He endured the torment of the cross ‘for the joy’?!? It pleased God to crush His Son (Isaiah 53:10) so that you and I could be His sons and daughters. What an amazing God we serve. So many of us know a lot about the story of Jesus and the theology behind Jesus, but to find joy we have to know intimately the person of Jesus, live in His favor, and as a result live a life of joy no matter what happens. It is emotional and amazing to believe this truth: Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so. There is no other name like the name of Jesus and He is truly the only place you can find joy.
Ultimately joy comes in the understanding that the difference I’m making or the impact I’m having in my life isn’t the determining factor in joy because that is temporary and joy in Christ is a permanent fixture. The abundant life is all circumstances when we realize one thing: Jesus is enough, and it is well.